Rafael Nadal loses at the Brisbane International but now the truly hard part begins

Nadal will next play at the Australian Open.

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Rafael Nadal's comeback was going smoothly until Friday when he lost to Australia's Jordan Thompson in three sets 7-5 6-7(6) 6-3. Nadal had shown little rust in his return from a second-round hip injury he suffered in the 2023 Australian Open, but after holding a match point in a second-set tie-break, Thompson roared back to win the final four points. After that, Thompson took full control in the three-hour and 25-minute match.

Early against Thompson, Rafael Nadal got a little help as Thompson sometimes could not get out of his own way. The Aussie landed only 57 percent of his first serves through the first two sets and committed more unforced errors than the Spaniard. Still, not only is Thompson a solid player overall, but being an Aussie he is a bit more used to the summer heat in Melbourne. Temperatures on the court in Brisbane reached 90 degrees.

Whether the heat or simply being off for almost a year got the better of Nadal, he clearly wilted in the third set. He was broken early by Thompson and as Thompson's serve had improved through the match, the Australian was not truly threatened on most of his third-set service games until the final game where nerves almost got the best of him.

Rafael Nadal bows out to Jordan Thompson at the Brisbane International

In the semifinals, Thompson will take on Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov struggled in the first round but defeated Andy Murray in three sets. Since then, Dimitrov has not lost a set and only lost eight games total. He will be a real threat to whoever he plays at the Brisbane International.

In the final, Thompson could face top seed Holger Rune. Rune hasn't made the tournament easy on himself so far as he had to go three sets in his first two matches and faced a tie-breaker in the second set of his third match. But Rune has the touch and quickness to give anyone he faces a tough time.

At this point, however, as well as Nadal has played in his first tournament back in a year he still needs to get into better form and adjust to the Australian heat before he can likely contend for the Australian Open title. Wouldn't that make for a special story, though, as the all-time great gets ready to return to the Australian Open on January 14?

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